Jeff Scott Soto

#673: Message of Love

GETTING MORE TALE #673: Message of Love

The old saying goes “Better late than never”.  This is often true, especially in music.  It is never too late to discover an old band.  Be it Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, or Queen, it has been pretty easy for me to catch up.  As is my modus operandi, when I discover a band I tend to jump in headfirst and not look back.

I took a similar path with Journey.  Journey were never considered “heavy metal”, and although metal magazines did cover them, I was never exposed to their music as a kid.  If they were not on the Pepsi Power Hour in the 1980s, then chances are, I didn’t hear them until later on.

Prior to official “discovery”, I think I only knew two Journey songs.  “Any Way You Want It” was used on the Simpsons in a memorable scene.  I also remember hearing “Wheel in the Sky” on the radio while eating out with my sister and my grandmother.  “Who is this?” I kept asking.  The song was incredible!

I didn’t find out for many years that it was Journey, although I did form an idea of what Journey sounded like otherwise.  Dream Theater covered “Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin'” on their Change of Seasons EP.  “I hate that song!” said T-Rev upon seeing the EP.  I didn’t care for it either.  But I was still curious why Joey Belladonna from Anthrax counted Journey as one of his favourite bands.  Something to do with the singer?

I really had no idea who Steve Perry was.  I heard of him.  I didn’t know he was one of the most influential singers of the 70s and 80s!  In 1994, his solo album For Love of Strange Medicine was released.  It was my first year at the Record Store and I still didn’t really know who he was.  I remember stocking the CD, but I kind of blew it when I sold my first copy to a customer.

“This is supposed to be great,” said the lady buying the Steve Perry CD.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to make conversation where I shouldn’t have.  “He’s a great guitar player.”  Wrong guess.

“He’s also an amazing singer!” said the lady with class, trying not to embarrass me.

I will never forget calling Steve Perry a great guitar player.  What a clueless poser I was!

My moment of discovery finally came in 1998.  T-Rev, Tom and I were in a mall in Burlington, as I recall.  The new Journey song came on:  “Remember Me”.  This was one a one-off track from the Armageddon soundtrack.  It was credited as “Journey (featuring lead vocals by Steve Augeri)”.  As I would later find out, Steve Perry quit the band and was replaced by a similar sounding Steve.  I didn’t care about that, because the song was incredible!  I looked forward to eventually getting the CD, which I would have been buying anyway for new Aerosmith and Our Lady Peace.

That was my gateway:  a soundtrack song with a replacement singer, from a shitty Michael Bay movie.  Embarrassing yes, but the truth it is.

My bosses and co-workers cringed as I jumped right into my new favourite band.  First up:  Greatest Hits, remastered of course.  Bought it, loved it.  It was a little light, with all those ballads, but I expected that.  It was songs like “Only the Young” and “Separate Ways” that slayed me.  To me it sounded as if Bon Jovi ripped off every trick he had right from Journey.  Early Bon Jovi, for sure.  Not everyone agreed with me on that, particularly Bon Jovi fans, but I don’t think it’s a stretch.

Next I acquired their Time3 box set, at which point I finally got a proper Journey education.   From their progressive jam band beginnings to a bitter ending at the close of the 80s, the Time3 box set got me up to speed.  Almost.

One thing was missing:  Journey’s 1996 reunion album with none other than Steve Perry.  Fortunately for me, one of my regular customers (whom the bosses hated because he chewed gum when he spoke) brought me a mint condition Japanese version of Trial By Fire, complete with bonus track.  Something about the album clicked with me, and to do this day — do I dare say it? — I think it’s my favourite Journey.  Trial By Fire is exceptional.  It is diverse, perhaps even more so than prior Journeys.  It is passionate, and Steve Perry’s seasoned voice is the real journey.

Of course all this new Journey love meant I was playing them in store, constantly.  One kid named Matty K absolutely loathed every time Steve Perry sang “Whoa-oh-oh oh” in any form.  Everybody else probably thought I lost my shit.  What can I say?  Journey’s music actually made me feel good.  Of course I wanted to play it often, and I’m sorry the others hated it.  And hate it they did!

Steve Perry didn’t want to tour after Trial By Fire and so was replaced by Steve Augeri for a couple releases…who was then replaced by Jeff Scott Soto in a killer lineup that didn’t last…and Soto was replaced by current singer Arnel Pineda.  His remarkable story is the stuff for a whole other article, but I still love Journey.

Since I missed out the first two times around, I would love to hear a Journey reunited with Steve Perry once again.  It doesn’t matter that his voice has changed.  There is nothing quite like hearing him sing.  Or play guitar?  I can’t remember!

REVIEW: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Inspiration (2 CD reissue)

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

What better way to end the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS than with a covers album?!  Thanks for joining us this week for some very questionable music!

Scan_20160317YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – Inspiration (1998, 2000 Spitfire 2 CD reissue)

“Woah!” said I upon spying this album for the first time, back in 1998 at the big HMV on Yonge St.  “Yngwie did a covers album!  Scorpions, Rainbow, Rush, lots of Purple…I’m in!”  For some reason, I thought that updated versions of some of my favourite songs redone by Yngwie Malmsteen would be something I’d want to hear all the time.  Eagle Rock did a reissue of Inspiration a couple years later with some bonus tracks out of the Yngwie archives, so when that one came in used at the Record Store, I swapped up for it.

Now, you might think that with such vocal luminaries as Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner, and Mark Boals, it would be hard to miss.  You would be wrong.  It’s impressive that all three guys served as lead vocalist for Yngwie in the early years, and returned for the covers album.  Beyond that, this album is still a turd.  Right from the orange-skinned Yngwie turd cover art, to the ghastly version of “Manic Depression” that Yngwie sings himself, this album is dreadful.  Just a real haul to try and listen to in one sitting.

Yngwie insists on producing all his music, and he has managed to make Jeff Scott Soto sound dull, sterile and boring.  No mean feat.  “Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas) is an excuse for Malmsteen to over-shred, but Soto is not given a chance to do anything.  Even though Yngwie’s version of the song is actually shorter, it sounds way longer.  A simply atrocious “Pictures of Home” is given to Joe Lynn Turner to sing; kind of obvious since he was actually in Deep Purple for a few minutes.  How did they get drums to sound this bad?  The Blackmore obsession continues with “Gates of Babylon” (Rainbow) and even more Purple:  “Mistreated”, “Demon’s Eye”, and “Child in Time”.  Yes, that makes half of this covers album a Ritchie Blackmore covers album.  “Gates of Babylon” is pretty good, Soto finally unleashed, but then Yngwie shits all over it with a guitar solo that is way louder than the lead vocals!

Gates of Babylon

Gates of Babylon

The best things about these remakes could be the keyboard of Jens Johansson: not trying to copy Jon Lord in any way, but certainly a fun player to listen to if you’re into the neo-classical.  Unfortunately even he can’t save some of these tracks.  “Child in Time” is truly awful, simply not worth listening to.  Why waste eight minutes on this when you can play the original?  On the brighter side, a heavy version of “In the Dead of Night” by the progressive rock supergroup, U.K. is pretty good.  It’s a song you may recognize (I knew it from somewhere), but perhaps the reason I dig Yngwie’s version is that the original isn’t ingrained in my mind.    Mark Boals sings it, and his voice is strong and ripping!

Then we have the bonus CD.  (The Japanese version of the CD has a bonus track, Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”, but I don’t care.)  The best track on this disc is the song “Voodoo” from Yngwie’s album Magnum Opus.  Mike Vescera was the singer, and I always liked his era in Malmsteen.  It’s a heavy original tune with buckets of drama.

The balance of the bonus CD is a mixture of early Yngwie rarities and interviews…mixed together.  Meaning you don’t get actual full songs.  You get bits of songs and then Yngwie talking about the album and the music that inspired him, including Paganini.  I really hate when songs are chopped up like this.  The interview is not riveting but is good.  Childhood musical memories, early bands, and influences are notable topics.  Yngwie’s preoccupation with his own playing is fascinating.  He calls it an “obsession” and it’s clear from his work that he plays only to please himself.  And that’s just dandy.

Inspiration as a whole is overplayed, sonically sterile, and comes across as completely uninspired.  When Yngwie overplays on his own originals, that’s OK.  That’s the way the songs were written.  When you go nuts soloing all over “Sails of Charon” (Scorpions), all the listener really wants is to hear the sultry, original tones of Uli Jon Roth.  Inspiration is still a chore to finish, and it’s now going back on the shelf for a very long time.

1/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Rock Star – Music from the Motion Picture (2001)

Scan_20150812ROCK STAR – Music from the Motion Picture (2001 Warner)

I remember dragging my long-suffering girlfriend at the time out to see this movie.  She had every right to complain.  The movie was a stinker, absolutely.  Not to mention, it had no idea when it is taking place.  Vaguely, the 80’s, but then after this guy (Marky Mark) leaves the band (Steel Dragon), he goes and becomes the founder of grunge?  The movie sucked!  It was very, very loosely inspired by the story of Ripper Owens being discovered by Judas Priest, by being in a Judas Priest cover band.  In the movie, Marky Mark becomes the singer of Steel Dragon after their original singer (who also happens to be gay, hmmm?) quits.  It was supposed to be a really inspiring story of the everyman with talent who succeeded, but it ended up being just a normal everyday turd.

But listen, we’re not talking about the movie.  We’re looking strictly at the soundtrack CD.  I ask you one simple question: If you were to pick one band to write and play the title anthem for a movie about a heavy metal band in the 80’s, who would it be?  Obviously the answer is Everclear.  (I say “obviously”, because a whole bunch of suits who get paid a whole lot more than I do picked it, so they must be right.)  Actually, their tune “Rock Star” isn’t bad.  It sounds a bit like an old Canadian rock band called Deadline, actually.

Scan_20150812 (3)

It’s astounding, but Zakk shaved his beard to get that 80’s look back!

The main attraction of the CD is actually the original tunage by the fictional band Steel Dragon.  On record, the lineup was:

  • Zakk Wylde – lead guitar
  • Jason Bonham – drums
  • Jeff Pilson – bass
  • Nick Cantonese – guitar
  • Mike Matijevic – lead vocals
  • Jeff Scott Soto – lead vocals

See why I dragged that poor girlfriend out to see this movie?  Zakk, Jason and Jeff were in even the movie, as the band Steel Dragon.

They had two lead singers, while Marky Mark mimed.  Jeff Scott Soto sings the raspy, mid-rangey stuff such as “Livin’ the Life”.  This isn’t a bad rock tune, but it’s Zakk’s guitar that makes it perk up a bit.  Mike Matijevic (Steelheart) sings the smooth and screamy stuff, with his impeccable range.  “We All Die Young” is a bonafide  great songs.  Matijevic’s stunning vocals meeting Zakk Wylde’s leads is probably a wet dream for some folks!  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t sound accurate to the period.  The movie is supposed to take place in the early 80’s (I think) but “We All Die Young” sounds early 90’s.  But wait…we’re supposed to be talking about the CD, not the movie.  Fuck the movie!

“Blood Pollution” (written by Twiggy Ramirez, interestingly) has Matijevic singing, but as with “Livin’ the Life” the song isn’t that special.  It sounds like Motley Crue, except with Zakk Wylde on guitar and a better Vince Neil.  Jeff Scott Soto helms “Stand Up”, which is way heavier than you’d expect considering Sammy Hagar wrote it!  This version actually came out before Sammy’s, on 2002’s Not 4 Sale and has different lyrics.  “Stand Up” kicks ass, and along with “We All Die Young” is one of the soundtrack highlights.  Just listen to Zakk killing it in that fast part! It’s also one of the few tunes with that patented, genetic Bonham Stomp.

Another track right up Motley Crue’s alley is “Wasted Generation”, and with its Desmond Child co-write it’s a lot heavier than expected. Jeff Scott kicks ass on the anthemic punchy chorus, and Zakk’s shredding is tasty. The final Steel Dragon tune on the disc is a Rainbow cover — “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Matijevic singing. I never understood why the band Steel Dragon would be playing a Rainbow cover, since it is implied that Steel Dragon were active in the 70’s too, contemporaries with Rainbow. But we’re here to talk about the CD, not that piece of shit movie. “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Zakk Wylde on guitar…it’s not what you’d hope it would be. Bonham’s awesome though, and remarkably Ian Paice-like.

The rest of the disc contains various hits from various bands from various years.  The Verve Pipe – “Colorful” (2001), check!  INXS – “The Devil Inside” (1987), check! Why? Who the fuck knows. I like some INXS, it’s completely out of place. I suppose that a soundtrack for you. More suiting to the tone of the CD are Kiss’ “Lick It Up” (1983), Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” (1986), Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” (1975), and Motley Crue’s “Wild Side” (1987). I do wonder why “Stranglehold” seems to be the only Nugent that ever shows up on movie soundtracks.  At least Marky Mark doesn’t have any songs.

The final song, Trevor Rabin’s “Gotta Have It” sounds like end credits music, but I’m not going to watch that crummy movie to find out. Rabin’s track is excellent, as should be expected. It sounds like Rabin, which is all I can really say to describe it!

So: Rock Star, a shit movie, gave us a pretty OK soundtrack. Considering I (and probably you) already had the Nugent, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue songs, I salvaged seven tracks from the album as keepers: the six Steel Dragon tunes, and Trevor Rabin. There are 14 songs, so this time the math is easy.

2.5/5 stars